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Retired general offers insights on global cyber security

ELSAH - Critiquing global security and setting a moral compass are just a few of the topics covered by a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speaking at Principia College Friday night.

Gen. Peter Pace (U.S. Marine Corps Ret.) spoke on "Global Security: A Lap Around the World," a wide-ranging conversation which included insights on the pervasive threat of cyber attacks, safeguarding integrity and the destructive consequences of partisan politics.

Pace was sworn in as 16th Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sept. 30, 2005, serving as the principal military adviser to President George W. Bush, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council for two years. He holds the distinction of being the first Marine to have served in that position.

"What does keep me awake at night?" Pace posed. "If we did take that that lap around the globe and started in Iraq, then went next door to Syria, Lebanon and Israel, down through Egypt, across up into Europe and then into our own hemisphere with Cuba and Venezuela and out into the Pacific, we have the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and North Korea, then the problems between India and Pakistan and Pakistan and Afghanistan, then Iran and you're back to Iraq.

"There are lots and lots of problems that we could talk about in a relatively narrow band going around the planet," Pace continued. "But not a single thing in any of those possible areas of conflict keeps me awake at night because we have the capacity, capability and knowledge to do something about it, but it doesn't mean we should do something about it or that we will always do it correctly."

Pace emphasized that this was his belief in every single area except one: cyber attacking and cyber defense.

"I know what our nation can do offensively with cyber weapons, and I know that we cannot defend against what we can do offensively," he said. "That means as a military guy that I have to presume that our potential enemies can do the same thing that we can do."

As the most dependent nation in the world on computers, Pace noted that cyber weapons are used thousands of times a day to attack systems, with many actors participating in the conflict.

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"Countries are largely self-determining; they don't want to attack with cyber because they don't want to be attacked with cyber," he said. "It's the same kind of standoff that you had with nuclear weapons."

The danger, he said, was below that level, implicating state-sponsored groups, terrorists, criminals and even hackers.

"Now fast-forward; I don't know if it's five or 10 years, but as computers become more powerful, individuals will be able to reach out and change ones to zeros and zeros to ones," he said. "It will no longer be a nuisance attack of not being able to use the Internet, but a real turning off of power, changing bank accounts, changing airplane routes, all kinds of things that are impossible today.

"If you are a younger person and thinking about how you might contribute and if you are good with computers, this is one area where you can do good business and great work," he advised the college students in the audience.

Culling from his more than four decades of military experience, Pace urged the audience to observe leaders they admire and to adopt some of their traits themselves. He warned that everyone should set their own moral compass and stick to it, whether on the battlefield, in a business situation or in their personal lives.

"Your integrity is sacrosanct," Pace said. "It's who you are. Never let anyone step on your integrity - that's where you absolutely must stand solid."

Compromise without foregoing morality, however, is essential, Pace said.

"Partisan politics is poisoning our country, not just the military budget but every aspect of things our Congress is supposed to be relied upon by the American people," Pace observed with great sobriety.

"There are so many pieces of this. First of all, we've gerrymandered ourselves into almost pure Republican and pure Democratic regions so that representatives get elected by an almost homogeneous group that has no desire, intent or need to compromise in their own sector," he said. "When that person goes off to serve in Congress, if that person wants to compromise, then their base won't re-elect them."

Pace strongly criticized how elections are conducted, sacrificing substance for mud-slinging tactics.

"What we want are two presidential candidates that tell us what they are going to do, not how bad the other guy is," he said. "If you hear 'so and so has approved this message,' you know it will be an attack."

"This has a huge impact not only on the military, not only on sequestration, but the entire tenor of this country: who we are, where we are going, what we believe and how we will leave the world better for our kids."

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©2012 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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